Thursday, January 23, 2014


NYT Magazine's Hillary Cover Makes No Sense: A Brief Scientific Chat

Here is this weekend's New York Times Magazine cover. (The orbiting objects, if you can't tell: The Friends-of-Bill Black Hole, The Super-Pac Nebula, Huma's Dark Matter, The Chelsea Quasar, The Arkansas Cluster, Katzenberg's Comet, The Patti Solis Doyle Vortex, The Obama Supernova; the bottom text reads "The gravitational pull of a possible 2016 Campaign is bringing all the old Clinton characters into her orbit. Can she make the stars align, or will chaos prevail?" Click here to enlarge.) Here is a chat I had about the cover with my friend and astronomy scholar Claire Webb.

me: uh

Claire:  snorted

is this a joke?

me:  it's real

Claire:  no way

me:  swear to god

chelsea is a QUASAR

Claire:  LOL

remember i studied those in college

me:  yes!

Claire:  also, this analogy doesn't make any sense

me:  GO ON

Claire:  nothing revolves around a planet

me:  GO ON.....

Claire:  except MOONS

me:  tell me more about space

Claire:  not, quasars or star clusters!!


lol the obama supernova

guess that makes sense

like, he's dying

me:  what planet is she supposed to be

what planet's face is that large

Claire:  .....

"planet's face"

me:  do planets even smile???

i'm just saying, the science seems... suspect

Claire:  just a lil

i'm just saying, i get what theyre trying to do

but they really botched the analogy

because they are trying to say that all these things are "in her universe"

and like "things revolve around her"

but, a planet is not significant

do you see what i'm saying

me:  would it make sense if she were a moon?

Claire:  no, that would make even less sense

if she's a planet, everything else should be a moon

it would be better if she were a star

and everyone else was a planet

or like, she could be a black hole

sucking everyone in

this is such bs

me:  i guess that would be even more potentially offensive


or, a hole, generally

Claire:  "the graviational pull"

what gravitational pull

a planet doesn't "bring anything into its orbit," except moons

me:  can a planet make the stars align?

Claire:  no!

there is no such thing 

as stars aligning

me:  hmm fascinating did not know

Claire:  emma....

me:  what's a nebula

Claire:  it's a site of star birth

gas and dust

me:  seems like a ..... nebulous theory

Claire:  ......


idk what else to say about hillary cover

analogy = botched

me:  got it

would be cool if planets had faces and, like, personalities, though

buncha planets getting together to drink and talk politics

Claire:  lol yes

it'd be amazing

pluto would be the rejected sociopath

juptier would be ... santa-like

saturn would be a sexy lady in a slinky dress

mars would be super aggressive, like getting in fistfights

scrappy and little

me:  what about hil

Claire:  neptune would be the sadsack debbie downer

me:  what planet is most hil

Claire:  idk....venus?

but w/o venus connotations

me:  good answer

20 Comments / Post A Comment


Maybe there were budget cuts, and the intern had to do the cover this month? Astronomical inaccuracies aside, it kinda has that look.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@ru_ri It reminds me of that orange that has a face on it?

Also, it might be the least flattering photo/depiction I've ever seen of a politician.


Also, LOL at "neptune would be the sadsack debbie downer."


Wooooooow <3 Very pretty.@m


i can't stop reading this over and over

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@j-i-a : It's particularly delightful because my reaction was the same as with all mass-media science gaffes : science-nerd rage followed by resignation that "nobody cares that this makes no sense, so best not to get worked up about it." So seeing this cheered me right up, because YES IT DOES MATTER THAT NOTHING ORBITS PLANETS (except moons and other natural satellites) AND OTHER REAL PEOPLE SHARE MY FEELINGS.

Julia duMais

yes please more like this all the time forever. I love it so much.


This chat is hilarious!

But whoever made that cover should seriously be fired. It's the dumbest thing I've seen all year. But it is only January, so time remains!

Julie the T

First: This is so great. Thank you.
Second: I can't stop looking at Hillareptune (Hillercury? Hillearth?). The face. The planet covered in skin. It has a dark power over me.

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@Julie the T : It looks weirdly like that kid-with-other-peoples'-hands-on-his-head image from the "learn any language!" Web ad things that I never click on and which I cannot find now that I look for it but which invariably crops up in those "From Around the Web" webpage ad sections. Whew.

I'll just leave this here, then.

Julie the T

@Gef the Talking Mongoose OMG you read my mind - the Mighty Boosh was the very first thing that came to mind when I saw that abomination of a Hillary-planet. Well done.


I just did an illustration for the NY Times (it doesn't run until next month). When they accepted it, I was, like, "Oh, phew, they like it; it's good."

Now I'm not so sure. :(

Hialmar Ekdal@facebook

Great talk.
p.s Our sun is just a star.

Saw a NYT explainer at: 6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/how-our-hillary-clinton-cover-came-about/

Prabir Majumder

It's particularly cheerful because my reaction was the same as with all mass-media science science-nerd rage followed by resignation that "nobody takes appreciated that this makes no sense, so it will be best not to get worked up about it." So seeing this delighted me right up, because yes it does matter that nothing orbits planets (without moons and other satellites) and other real people share my emotions.

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@Prabir Majumder : You said it, man.


That was funny reading.


First: This is so great. Thank you.
Second: I can't stop looking at Hillareptune (Hillercury? Hillearth?). The face. The planet covered in skin. It has a dark power over me. sulfate free shampoo


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